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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Iran rules out nuclear weapons
Iranian leaders
Iran and the US have not had ties since 1979
Iran has said it will not seek nuclear weapons for any reason, dismissing allegations by the United States that it wants to develop weapons of mass destruction.

We are convinced we must not seek nuclear weapons despite the threats we face

Iranian defence minister
Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted in an interview with the Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat as saying the existence of nuclear weapons would "turn us into a threat that could be exploited in a dangerous way to harm our relations with countries of the region".

"In Iran, we are totally convinced that we must not seek nuclear weapons and must not attempt to seek them for any reason, despite the threats that we face," Mr Shamkhani said.

But he added that Iran would continue to develop its Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile for defensive purposes.

The defence minister's comments, which were published on Tuesday, come amid growing American pressure on Iran to halt alleged efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The remarks are being interpreted as an attempt to counter a campaign of increasingly hostile rhetoric by the US.

Last week in his State of the Union address, President Bush singled out Iran for criticism - along with Iraq and North Korea - saying Tehran pursued weapons of mass destruction and exported terror.

'Self-centred, naive approach'

As part of Iran's vigorous response to Washington's latest attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi wrote to the United Nations denouncing what he called US threats of force and unfounded allegations against Iran.

Iranian Shahab-3 missile
Iran's medium-range Shahab-3 missile is capable of reaching Israel
He said Iran was "disappointed about the overall approach of the US (in) promoting a self-centred and naive policy, which focuses only on the threat or use of force against what the US has arrogated to itself to call terrorism".

Mr Kharrazi added that Washington was refusing to examine the root causes of political violence, and thus "undermines the global resolve to embark on a real and comprehensive war on terrorism".

But in an apparent softening in the US administration's line on Iran, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Tuesday that America was willing to talk to states which Mr Bush described as an "axis of evil".

Regarding Iran, Mr Powell said Washington had a long list of grievances - but he also acknowledged Tehran's co-operation over Afghanistan

See also:

06 Feb 02 | Americas
US softens line on 'evil axis'
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran challenges US on al-Qaeda fugitives
09 Jan 02 | AudioVideo
Bush warns Iran on terror
08 Jun 00 | Crossing Continents
Changing faces in Iran
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
Iran regains role in Afghanistan
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
Iran-Palestinian weapons link 'likely'
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